Barca transfer ban to spark Manchester war over ‘new Messi’

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Manchester United and rivals Manchester City are set to battle it out for the signature of Barcelona-bound youngster Alen Halilovic in the wake of the Catalan club’s 14-month transfer ban.

Barcelona have a deal in place for the 17-year-old Dinamo Zagreb player dubbed the “new Lionel Messi” but this has been put under threat by the ban, which was sanctioned in relation to Barca’s breaching of rules relating to the signings of players aged under 18.

According to Halilovic’s lawyer, Jean Louis Dupont, the deal will be honoured as it was agreed before the penalty was handed out.

“I can’t imagine that my client will not play for Barcelona. This is a pre-penalty operation,” he told Spanish radio station Esports RAC1.

However, it remains to be seen whether the La Liga favourites – priced at 4/6 to win the title – will be allowed to honour the deal and both Manchester clubs are waiting to pounce should the transfer be blocked.

The diminutive Croatian has racked up 58 appearances for Dinamo already – scoring eight goals in that time – and has a host of clubs lining up to acquire his services.

Despite a disappointing season so far, United could be better-equipped than their neighbours to attract the teenager if the Barca deal falls through.

United are now 50/1 outsiders to finish in the top four and manager David Moyes is expected to have a clearout of his squad this summer.

The Red Devils would be more likely to offer the Croatian first team opportunities and Moyes’ use of Adnan Januzaj this term shows the Scot is not averse to placing faith in young talent.

City, on the other hand, boast a squad full of midfield talent and Halilovic would be advised to study the career paths of Scott Sinclair and Jack Rodwell before contemplating a move to the Etihad.

All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.

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